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More than 100 House Democrats urge Biden to lift restrictions on Cuba amid crisis

Associated Press/Ramon Epinosa

More than 100 Democrats in the House have called on President Biden lift U.S. regulations on Cuba in order to help address “the worst economic and humanitarian crisis in recent history.”

The lawmakers, led by Democratic Reps. Jim McGovern (Mass.), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Bobby Rush (Ill.), urged Biden in a letter to do away with specific licenses that are required to send medical supplies to Cuba as well as lift restrictions on banking and related financial transactions.

The U.S. embargo against Cuba does technically allow for humanitarian aid to be shipped to the island nation. However, fear of accidentally violating U.S. law stops humanitarian aid from being sent from the U.S. and other countries, according to the lawmakers.

Protests broke out in Cuba this year against the ruling Communist Party as the COVID-19 pandemic placed pressure on living conditions. In the largest anti-government protest that Cuba has seen in decades, Cubans called for President Miguel Díaz-Canel to step down. Protesters also demonstrated against the lack of food and medicine in the country.

The government cracked down on protesters by deploying security officers and government supporters to picket the homes of activists and dissidents.

The House Democrats asked that Biden lift restrictions on family remittances and travel to Cuba in order to allow Cuban-Americans to send financial support and to visit the country in order to reunite with their family members.

They stated that revenue generated from remittances into Cuba goes toward food, fuel and other essential goods that Cubans need.

“In addition to these immediate steps, we believe that a policy of engagement with Cuba serves U.S. interests and those of the Cuban people. It should lead to a more comprehensive effort to deepen engagement and normalization, including restarting diplomatic engagement at senior levels as well as through the re-staffing of each country’s respective embassies,” they wrote, adding that it would be a “gesture of good faith” and “in the best interests of the United States.”

Apart from helping to alleviate the worsening conditions in Cuba, the U.S. representatives argued that approaching Cuba from a position of “principled engagement” instead of “unilateral isolation” would allow the U.S. to bolster human rights in Cuba.

“Engagement is more likely to enable the political, economic, and social openings that Cubans may desire, and to ease the hardships that Cubans face today,” they wrote.

During his time in office, former President Obama moved to normalize relations with Cuba, with the Communist country being removed from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list. However, former President Trump moved to put a stop to some of the Obama-era agreements and issued tightened travel restrictions. 

Tags Barack Obama Barbara Lee Bobby Rush Countries Cuban protests Cuba–United States relations Donald Trump Economy of Cuba James McGovern Joe Biden Miguel Diaz-Canel

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